Archive for the ‘14-2 Chronicles’ Category

2 Chronicles 24:17-22 (Part 1 of 2)

Jehoiada’s Reforms Reversed

Opening Illustration/Comments

Last week at our weekly Bible study, one of my dear friends and my Monday morning theological debater (as has become our custom since I have been at Lamar UMC) asked an intriguing question. There are places in the Bible where disciples are told to dust their feet off as they leave towns that have rejected the gospel message. That led him to ask the question, does God turn His back on those people who reject the gospel or reject God? He said it seems that when, multiple times, the disciples of Jesus who go to a town to preach the gospel and it is rejected or certain groups of people that the disciples are instructed to move on and basically forget about those folks.

Does God turn His back on us? Does God give up on us and dust his sandals off and forget about us? It was John Wesley who stated that God’s grace is all around us, always. He called it prevenient grace. It is all about the grace. God is searching for us. It is us that rejects Him. We turn our backs on Him not other way around. God is pursuing us all, all the time. He may not stop events from happening that are the aftereffects of our sins. He may use events and circumstances to get our attention. He may inspire trusted friends to “tell it like it is.” He may use even enemies of our to speak truth into our lives when it’s really needed and we are vulnerable enough for it to hit home. Just as God used the prophets to warn Israel of the coming disasters that would befall them if they followed their present courses of action and failed to return to God. Oh God does not turn His back on us. We turn our backs on Him. Even then, his grace surrounds us. It is up to us to recognize it and take hold of it.

His biggest pursuit action was the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live in the flesh. Through Jesus, he demonstrated to us our need for God and for Jesus to be our Savior. So God sent His only Son into the world so that the world might live through Him. God sent Jesus to be the full payment for the sins of all who believe in Him. That means that sinners can have their biggest problem completely erased by believing that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and trusting Him as savior. So in reality, God does NOT turn His back when “people most need Him.” God actually already took care of our greatest need. It is we who have turned our backs on Him. It is we who turn away from God and then, when we don’t like the consequences, we blame Him. We say He turned His back on us. However, it’s when the consequences of our pursuit of sin that lead us to the always negative consequences of sin. Sin ALWAYS has negative consequences. ALWAYS. And we act all shocked when we realize that this is the case. God constantly warns us that this is the case. He is not trying to keep us from something. He is trying to protect us from that which, in His eternal wisdom, He knows will hurt us or destroy us. God is always there pursuing and surrounding us with His grace. It is us who puts the blinders of sin on. But God never gives up on us. We may give up on Him and may reject Him all the way to the grave. But up until that point of death/passing into eternity, God pursues. And there is grace there in the form of what Jesus did on the cross. And it does not matter if we rejected Him for 74 years and 364 days, and accepted Christ on our 75th birthday, and then immediately died, we are His. The grace is there. It’s up to us to recognize it!

It is that idea of God constantly pursuing us that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 24:17-22. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

17 But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. 18 They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Yet the Lord sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.

20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now he has abandoned you!”

21 Then the leaders plotted to kill Zechariah, and King Joash ordered that they stone him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s Temple. 22 That was how King Joash repaid Jehoiada for his loyalty—by killing his son. Zechariah’s last words as he died were, “May the Lord see what they are doing and avenge my death!”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, when King Joash and the nation of Judah abandoned God, the Lord sent Zechariah to call them to repentance. Before dispensing judgment and punishment, God gave them chances to return to Him. In the same way, God does not abandon us or lash out in revenge when we sin. Instead, he aggressively pursues us through His Word, His Spirit in us, the timely God-inspired words of others, and, yes, sometimes through discipline (allowing our sins’ consequences to play themselves out in our lives). God gains no pleasure from or has no desire for our destruction, but He allows events to unfold negatively in the natural course of what sin does to our lives so as to urge us to return to Him. God will always pursue us so stop and listen. Allow your ears to be open to hear what God is warning you of through all the different ways that God speaks to us.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that God’s grace is there all around everyone and He has no time limit on it – except when death occurs, then it’s too late. Up until then, no matter what we have done, God’s got a grace for that. God relentlessly pursues us even when we are actively rejecting Him. God took care of what we need to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. We can spend our entire lifetimes rejecting Him but His is pursuing even then. His grace is still there in Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. All you have to do is recognize it. No one is too far gone to accept Jesus into their heart when on their knees in all humility before God. Thus, we as Christ followers should never right anybody off. We may have to distance ourselves because of their sinful practices that they are glorying in, but that does not stop us from loving them, praying for them, trying to reach them in loving ways with the gospel message, and welcoming them into our fellowship so that they can hear the Word of God. No one is too far gone from the reach of God’s grace. He will be in pursuit and so should we. Let us be the ones people turn to when their quit turning their back on God. Let us be the ones they turn to when they are ready to accept God’s abundant grace.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:1-16 (Part 2 of 2)

Joash Repairs the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

In football, there are often games where a highly successful and perennial champion team is playing a mediocre team that has a mediocre history. In so many of those cases, the players of the mediocre team are just in awe of the swagger, style, speed, and confidence of the championship team. As they are warming up for the game, that awe gets in their head and often the mediocre team has already lost the game before the kickoff of the game even happens. They are defeated before the game even begins.

In ministry, you can get pretty frustrated when ideas for new directions get turned down (and that, of course, happens more often not) repeatedly. It can make you discouraged and take your will to fight for new ideas within the church and new ideas for reaching the world outside our doors. It can make you despondent about carrying out the same old, same old and you can lose focus. You can get the feeling that, after a while, that “ah, they’d never go for that!” and you can give up on pushing the church to grow and evolve.

Such a place is a dangerous place for a pastor to be in where he is in the “ah, they’d never go for that!” place. In that place, a pastor quits thinking fresh thoughts. In that place, a pastor quits thinking 3-6 months ahead of his congregation. In that place, you just repeat history because it requires no vision. In that place, you succumb to the power of the phrase, “this is the way we have always done it!” In that place, a pastor simply becomes a babysitter. It is the nature of human beings to resist change. It is the nature of human beings to love routine. It is the nature of human beings to love the familiarity of a routine where “this is the way we have always done it.”

When a pastor, thus, is not pressing against the wall to push the church forward, to challenge it to adapt to the rigors of a different world than that of the Greatest Generation, he lowers the expectations he has for his congregation. In college football programs, there are the superior programs and there are the mediocre programs. The difference often is the mindset. A mediocre program can become a superb program when the alumni and the fan base are challenged to believe and support the program in superb program ways. The coaching staff must instill a belief in themselves and their players that they can be excellent and go about achieving it. There must be a belief that the program CAN be great, must be a belief that any obstacles to greatness will be removed. There must be a belief that the players can work harder than any other program. There must be a belief by the coaching staff that there are no high school football players that are off the list because you know who will get them.  There must be a belief that the program can be excellent.

It is the same way for pastors and their churches. It starts with the pastor. If he gives up on pushing for excellence and starts accepting the voice that says, “ah, they’d never go for that!” then things become stationary and stagnant. Even if your new ideas get rejected 11 times in a row, there’s always that 12th idea that could be the home run for your church that God was waiting to show you and your church. We must keep pushing. We must keep the expectations high. Even if defeats have been aplenty. Failure to keep pushing could lead to you and your church missing that blessing comes with the persistence to get to idea #12 (or whatever the number might be for you).

It is that idea of not settling for the mindset of “ah, they will never go for that!” that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 24:1-16. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

16 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. 17 And all the people went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They demolished the altars and smashed the idols, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

18 Jehoiada now put the priests and Levites in charge of the Temple of the Lord, following all the directions given by David. He also commanded them to present burnt offerings to the Lord, as prescribed by the Law of Moses, and to sing and rejoice as David had instructed. 19 He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s Temple to keep out those who for any reason were ceremonially unclean.

20 Then the commanders, nobles, rulers, and all the people of the land escorted the king from the Temple of the Lord. They went through the upper gate and into the palace, and they seated the king on the royal throne. 21 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the Levites took their time carrying out the king’s order, even though they told him not to delay. Offerings for keeping the Temple in good working order was not just the king’s wish but it was commanded by God (see Exodus 30:11-16). The Levites were not only disregarding the king but they were also disregarding God, as a result. When it comes to following God’s commands, a slow response or being quiet when we should speak out is little better than outright disobedience. The Levites had gotten so despondent about the people of Israel that they did not even want to try. They felt as though right from the get-go that the people would not support the idea. They felt that it was going to be a defeat before they even started. They succumbed to the voice that says, “ah, they will never go for that!”

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we must always keep pushing the envelope of our churches. Of course, that’s provided that you are following God’s will and His vision for your church. We must seek His will above all else including our own egos. Once we are certain that we are in line with God’s will for our church, then, we must keep pushing for the vision He has given you. Even if we have ideas aligned with the vision that get defeated 11 times. Go back to the drawing board and revamp, recharge, and re-present your ideas for moving forward. It may be that next idea that the Holy Spirit has blessed you to find that strikes a chord with church through His influence. Remember, Thomas Edison failed at least 1,000 times on the proper combinations of materials before he struck upon the invention that changed the world – the electric light bulb.

There are so many stories of perseverance of the world’s richest entrepreneurs who kept plugging away because they had a vision to change the world. No progress ever comes from “ah, they will never go for that!” Pastor, let’s not be like the Levites here and give up before we even get started. Keep your shoulder to the wall and push hard all the time. Keep having vision. Keep believing in the potential of your church. Keep seeking the excellence that you know that is in your church. If you give up and succumb to “ah, they will never go for that!”, who will lead your church into the future? Who will lead it to that place that God has intended for it all along?

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:1-16 (Part 1 of 2)

Joash Repairs the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Back on March 17, 2020, the bishop of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), based on the medical evidence that he was evaluating, issued a memo to all South Carolina (SC) UMC churches to suspend all in-person worship services, meetings, and other in-person activities until further notice. That was over six months ago now. We remained under full suspension of in-person activities through June 11, 2020. Even after the full ban was lifted and we could return to some semblance of normal church life activity, the lifting of the ban was limited. Each SC UMC church had to prove that it could comply with the social distancing and virus spread reduction protocols recommended by the conference’s headquarters office in Columbia.

So, even now in early October 2020, my church and many like it in the SCUMC have reopened to limited in-person church life activities. However, many of our SCUMC churches have still not returned to in-person church life due to not being able to reasonably comply with the conference recommended protocols. With our church, though, we returned to in-person church life in the limited way recommended by our conference. Having said all that is my lead-in to what my biggest fear was concerning the virus. Part of this fear has been realized and part of it has not.

The part of the fears that I have had about the impact of the virus on my local church is that it would have a negative impact on church attendance and participation in other church life activities. This has been true. Even though I had suspected that the greatest impact would be the attendance and participation of our 65 and older crowd at our church. To say that portion of our church is a significant one would be an understatement. In a town where the population in general is aging (because of the flight of most younger residents to larger towns and cities after high school and college, the town itself is aging), our church’s regular attenders over age 65 comprise about 80% or more of active members. However, the pleasant surprise is that they have been the most faithful of our people. Sure, a good swath of them have stayed away due to their personal health concerns, but the majority have continued to be present at church. However, the negative surprise was that the under 65 crowd has been the least faithful. Their attendance has been sporadic and spotty. For all those who have stayed away, the general fear and social stigma of potentially or actually having the virus is real and must be accounted for when thinking about our public gatherings. However, among what is considered by health officials to be the most vulnerable group in our society (the 65 plus crowd), they have in general been present at church when our limited church life activities have taken place. As pastor to this flock, I thank you, those of you who are among our 65 and older crowd. A further benefit has been that our people have responded well (even this 65 and older crowd) to the greater use of video and other technologies to help us maintain church life, including Zoom meetings, Facebook Live worship service broadcasts, and pre-recorded videos and audio files used to support worship.

The other part that was a big fear was with the negative impact of, first, no in-person church life and now with reduced attendance in our limited church life, my fear was that the finances of the church would be severely impacted as well – to the point that it would be difficult for our church to maintain basic operations. It is clear however that our people responded and responded in a big way. Miraculously, we have maintained the same level of giving each month during this six months and counting of the pandemic and the limitations it has caused to our church. Regardless of whether we have had in-person worship services or not, our people have given to their church. Our people has responded willingly and generously. I believe that many of them see that without their support, our church could potentially falter and die. With our church approaching 140 years of existence, none of our people want to have dropped the ball on giving the church the lifeblood that it needs to continue existing. Of this fact, I praise God for the faithfulness of our people. The ground on which our people come together and have fellowship is holy ground and it is ground with a history of being devoted to the people who call it their home church. To honor that legacy even in times of trouble makes me proud of our people.

In many ways, I believe I was sent here by God to challenge our people to awaken to the potential that they have to be a highly impactful church. I believe I was sent here to challenge them to be a church that faces outward to the world around it rather than inward toward each other. In that, I often have pushed and prodded and challenged people to move beyond their comfort zones. But when I get the chance to pat them on the back for being a faithful people, I will do it. I see myself as that coach that drives you hard to excel and be your best but yet at the same time who will praise you when you do well.

So, here, at this moment, six months plus into the pandemic, our church still is receiving more funds in tithes and offerings than our spending on the daily and special event operations of our church. It is not because our spending has necessarily been reduced (though it has in some ministry areas). It is because our people have been faithful in their giving. I want to pat my people on the back for that! It could have been disastrous for our church (and there are many churches out there that are suffering mightily financially). But our people responded. Of that, I am so proud (like a football coach of his football team when they respond to adversity well)! I pray to God that He will bless our people and our church because of their faithfulness to the causes and purposes of Lamar UMC.

It is that idea of God’s people responding in times of crisis that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 24:1-16. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

16 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. 17 And all the people went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They demolished the altars and smashed the idols, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

18 Jehoiada now put the priests and Levites in charge of the Temple of the Lord, following all the directions given by David. He also commanded them to present burnt offerings to the Lord, as prescribed by the Law of Moses, and to sing and rejoice as David had instructed. 19 He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s Temple to keep out those who for any reason were ceremonially unclean.

20 Then the commanders, nobles, rulers, and all the people of the land escorted the king from the Temple of the Lord. They went through the upper gate and into the palace, and they seated the king on the royal throne. 21 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, evidently, the Levites were not convinced that the people would want to contribute to the rebuilding and repair of the Temple, but the people were glad to give of what they had for this project. This passage reminds us that it is often in times of trouble that the people of God have banded together and responded well to a real crisis. When challenged by circumstances, they will often respond well.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that, as a pastor, we must indeed challenge our people to go above and beyond where we are at currently. We are to challenge our people to be the hands and feet of Christ in real and tangible ways. We are to challenge our people to continue to mature in Christ. We are to challenge our people to be more and more like Christ each day. It is often tough and hard spiritual work to be that person that says “don’t rest on your laurels, keep pushing hard toward perfection!” However, there are moments that you are just so proud of your team of which you are the coach, so to speak. And it is in those moments, that you have to pat them on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, you gotta brag on your team. Pat them on the back for having listened and responded. Pat them on the back so that we can build upon this level of obedience to the Lord. May the Lord richly bless my people at this church at this moment in history with many blessings, one of which is to always be moving forward, always be pressing hard toward Christ’s perfection, always be looking for ways to improve our impact on the world around us…always being a maturing, humble force for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 23:16-21 (Part 2 of 2)

Jehoiada’s Religious Reforms

Opening Illustration/Comments

Why is it that all the bad people in the Old Testament are summarily killed in the Old Testament? Here, we see an admittedly evil queen get deposed from the throne that she took by force. It was a throne that she had no right to take, of course. She was a bad seed. She was not God’s representative king for the people of Judah. She was intent on pursuing her own interests and her own religion and forcing all of that on the people of Judah. She deserved to be deposed. But did she deserved to be taken out by the sword or whatever means of death it was? There seems to be a lot of steely-edged vengeance in the Old Testament that God either directed or He condoned. Why?

I think the answer lies in the fact that God is only patient with us to a point. When God created the world, it was perfect and sinless until Adam and Eve sinned. In ruining the state of perfection of the Garden of Eden and thus the whole world, it seems that God should have ended it all right there. Adam and Eve should have died in their imperfection in the presence of a perfect and holy God. the first man and woman should have died right then, but God is patient and gave them a “grace period,” covering their sin by sacrificing animals (when He made coats of skins in Genesis 3:21) in their place; sin is punishable by death, so something had to die (Hebrews 9:22). Abel followed this pattern (Genesis 4:4), as did Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abraham (Genesis 22:13), and the Israelites. These animal sacrifices were not sufficient to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4)—only a perfect, sinless sacrifice, fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ, could (Hebrews 4:15, 9:13–14). It was Christ’s sacrifice alone that was sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). The infinite Son died to pay the penalty for the infinite punishment from an infinitely Holy God.

In the time of the Great Flood, the people were offered the Ark but almost all rejected it. Only Noah’s family had the faith to embrace God’s way. The people who died in the flood were without excuse. In Sodom and Gomorrah, God was willing to spare the whole region of people if there found to be even 10 righteous people. The entire region rejected God as there were no righteous people to be found. Even if just 10 were found the whole area would have been spared. The plagues of Egypt could have easily been avoided if the Pharoah would simply have acknowledged that he was inferior to the one true God. On entry to the Promised Land, the Canaanites were actively rejecting God. The Amorites’ sin had reached its full measure and it was time for judgment. Leviticus 18:2–30 points out the horrendous crimes that were going on in the land of Canaan. They were having sex with their mothers, sisters, and so on. Men were having sex with other men. They were giving their children to be sacrificed to Molech (vs. 21). They were having sex with animals (vs. 23). So it is impossible to make the claim that those tribes were innocent and undeserving of punishment. Again and again, throughout the Old Testament, we see that God is a patient God but that man continues to shake his fist at Him and eventually the sins of the rejectors in the Old Testament were allowed to suffer the consequences of the rejection.

Even in the New Testament era in which we live, God has provided a means of salvation from the eternal destiny that we all deserve. However, man continues to reject God. How long will God’s patience continue. All that God wants is for us to understand that He loves us and only wants the best for through our obedience to His decrees and commands. Yet, we live in a time where man continues on his quest to deny the existence of God and to seek our own pleasures and coat in a covering of enlightened tolerance of all things and all behaviors. We feel today that we have outgrown God and that self-actualization (being all that we desire ourselves to be) is the true god of man. For us today, we think that anything that inhibits my own self-expression is intolerant and wrong. How much like the Old Testament rejectors of God are we?

It is that idea of God being a patient God but all patience, even God’s, is limited that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 23:16-21. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

16 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. 17 And all the people went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They demolished the altars and smashed the idols, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

18 Jehoiada now put the priests and Levites in charge of the Temple of the Lord, following all the directions given by David. He also commanded them to present burnt offerings to the Lord, as prescribed by the Law of Moses, and to sing and rejoice as David had instructed. 19 He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s Temple to keep out those who for any reason were ceremonially unclean.

20 Then the commanders, nobles, rulers, and all the people of the land escorted the king from the Temple of the Lord. They went through the upper gate and into the palace, and they seated the king on the royal throne. 21 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that that Athaliah met with a gruesome end. It seems always to be the case whether in Old Testament times or not, evil implodes upon us when we participate in it. It is the reason that God is against that which is evil. He knows that it will cause us pain and suffering and will eventually lead to our own ruin. When we actively reject Him, we will follow our own sinful heart’s desires. When we think only of ourselves, like Athaliah, in a world full of interconnected people, we cause damage to all with our own selfishness. God is calling us to Him through His patient love, but He will allow us to suffer the consequences of our sins. He is not a vengeful God. He simply allows the consequences of our sins to take their course. If we persist in rejecting Him and embrace evil, selfish desires, all of it will eventually snowball over us and destroy us in its avalanche.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we must not read the Old Testament as God being a vengeful God. We should see how incredibly patient God is with His people and with people in general. By all rights, God should be pretty fed up with us as a human race. We really have messed things up pretty badly. God’s patience is limited and He will put an end to the existence that we know one day. He is patiently waiting for all of us to see the light and the way out of sin’s consequence that He provided in salvation through Jesus Christ. Let us then look at the Old Testament as a way to look at ourselves and our world. The Old Testament is a mirror to mankind of how desperately evil we are and how evil we are to each other. The Old Testament should point us to a patient and loving God who provided us the ark of salvation in Jesus Christ. Take the life line and be drawn to the ark from the seas of evil and sin and come aboard God’s safety and security for eternity.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 23:16-21 (Part 1 of 2)

Jehoiada’s Religious Reforms

Opening Illustration/Comments

Tonight, we have a presidential debate and it truly sickens me as to where we have come – Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. Lord, help our nation if this is the best we have to offer! Republicans have gone off the rails is playing damage control over the past 4 years with Trump’s every outlandish comment. Democrats have drifted toward socialistic ideals that would make our founding fathers cringe and Joe Biden is simply the smooth talking “used car salesman” type that they have offered up to make their platform more palatable. This is where we are at. And I am not even sure that I am going to even watch the circus that will be the debate tonight.

I believe in the ideals of conservatism and those ideals are presently most generally represented in the platform and practices of the Republican party. However, it is truly sad that the image and figurehead of the Republican Party is Donald Trump. Why? Because Donald Trump is an egomaniac who thinks that only he is right and everybody else is wrong. He is not very presidential. He is like a town gossip who spews commentary without any basis in fact. I actually dread watching the debate tonight because Mr. Trump will most likely say something outrageous, say some things that are blatantly not true, and generally act like a school yard bully in his debate with Joe Biden. The media will rip him to shreds for it. Then the maniacal “it’s the end of the world if the Democrats take the White House” faction of the Republican Party’s supporters will take to the internet and spin what Trump says into the truth by multiplying what he says by 50%. It will further exacerbate the us vs. them mentality of many supporters of Trump and the Republican Party.

On the other hand, the platform and practices of the Democratic Party have drifted so far to the left that it too sickens me. Creating further and further dependance on the government is their aim it seems, with government handouts for this and that, for forgiveness of debt for this and for that. It seems to me that the Democrats feel that the Federal government and spending money that the government does not have will solve the nation’s problems and create this utopian society. Further, their positions on abortion, the forms that marriage can take, and government intrusion into our lives is simply inconsistent with my Christian faith. And then there’s Joe Biden. He is simply the best that the Democrats have to offer? He seems the classic Machiavellian politician that will promise and do anything so match the prevailing polling numbers of the traditional support base of his party and who hopes all his promises will sway the independent voters.

On the one hand you have a school yard bully who seems the necessary evil that Republicans must live with at least through January 2021 (inauguration day if he loses) if not January 2025 (inauguration day after a second term if he wins). On the other hand, you have the classic Clintonesque liberal in Biden who will do and say anything to get elected. I am so completely fed up with what the major parties are feeding up to us as candidates that it makes me want to cry.

However, I must keep reminding myself that who the President is, really is not the issue. These candidates are a reflection of who we are. They do not set the tone. We set it as the people. Our leaders are simply a reflection of who we are as a people. Therefore, we as Christians, cannot sit back and pin our hopes on presidential candidates. We must be societal influencers!

It is that idea of not pinning our hopes on presidential candidates and being the change that we seek that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 23:16-21. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

16 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. 17 And all the people went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They demolished the altars and smashed the idols, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

18 Jehoiada now put the priests and Levites in charge of the Temple of the Lord, following all the directions given by David. He also commanded them to present burnt offerings to the Lord, as prescribed by the Law of Moses, and to sing and rejoice as David had instructed. 19 He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s Temple to keep out those who for any reason were ceremonially unclean.

20 Then the commanders, nobles, rulers, and all the people of the land escorted the king from the Temple of the Lord. They went through the upper gate and into the palace, and they seated the king on the royal throne. 21 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Jehoiada restored the Temple procedures and its worship services according to David’s original plans (go back and look at 1 Chronicles 24-25). In this passage, we see also that they renewed their commitment to the already established covenant with God – the one set up in Deuteronomy for the righteous rule of the nation. It was meant to function basically as the constitution for the governing of Israelite society and its people. This covenant, by this point in the history of the Israelites, had pretty much been ignored for over a century. Unfortunately, after Jehoiada death, as we shall see going forward in 2 Chronicles, the reforms of the religious life of the nation died with him. There must be a desire among the people to change. There must be a willingness to do more than just quietly get along or sit on the sidelines and complain. There must be a willingness to be the change agents in society from the ground up.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we, as Christians, must be the change that we seek in our nation. Presidential candidates will not do it. We must be willing to run for public office at all levels instead of complaining about the state of our country. We must be in the mission field of our country changing it from within. We must be use our biblical values to create conversations that bring people back to God. Why are our churches dying? It is the same reason that our country is drifting away from God and more toward secularism each day. It is because we have become ivory tower Christians. We sit in our ivory towers and complain about what’s going on below us but do not come down from the tower to be the change we seek. It’s easier to complain than it is to be the solution. We must become more active in our world as Christians. We no longer live in a world where Christian values dominate. We must retake the land that we have lost. We must demonstrate biblical, agape love to a world that is drifting away from God. We must be the change we seek. We cannot depend on Donald Trump or Joe Biden to save our nation. Only Jesus Christ-centered and socially active Christians loving one person at a time to the cross is the answer. Holy Spirit pour yourself out on every American Christian right now so that they will care about the community around them. Pour yourself out on them to give them courage to be out in the world loving people to the cross. Pour yourself out on us so that we can reclaim our nation and not depend on presidential candidates and political parties to save it.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 23:12-15

Queen Athaliah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

At the end of October of this year, it will have 26 years since the drowning murders of Alex and Michael Smith by their mother, Susan Smith. Our family has a roundabout connection to this situation through Alex and Michael’s paternal grandfather, David Smith, Sr. After the children’s supposed disappearance and murder discovery, the Smith family was at the center of varying levels of public scrutiny and media attention over the years since that fateful October 1994 night. As a result, David Sr. ended moving away from Union because the pain and the attention of being there was just too overwhelming. He moved to the Florida panhandle to start a new life. It is there where he met and eventually my cousin, Courtney. So, this case took on even more significance to me when Courtney married David.

Last night there was one of those episodes of the show, How It Really Happened, starring Hill Harper. He revisited the Susan Smith murders. In that episode, it was like reliving those days back in 1994 when the Upstate of South Carolina (where I lived then in Greenville) and the whole nation became riveted to the search for the supposedly missing Michael and Alex. All of us were shocked when it was revealed 9 days after the story broke that Susan Smith had actually been responsible for the deaths of her own children. Her whole charade for those 9 days was a lie. Her story began to unravel with the police almost from the beginning. And it all started with a traffic light.

Her story was believable to the police up to the point that she claimed that she was a stop light on SC 49 in Union when no other vehicles were around to witness it when this carjacking and abduction occurred. It was that one little tiny fact that started the suspicions of police that she was not telling the truth about the events of that night. You see at the intersection Susan was talking about was one of those intersections of a major road with a minor road. It had enough traffic and previous accidents to warrant a traffic light being there. However, SC 49 is a significant road through the area so the highway department made sure that the traffic light system installed there recognized that. It was one of those traffic light systems where the light on the main road would stay green until some traffic approached it from the minor road. Only then would the SC 49 light go from green to red. That’s the flaw in Susan’s story that started it all. She claimed to be at that intersection approaching it on SC 49. The only way that light would have red would be if another car had approached the intersection from the minor road side of the intersection. That would have meant that there would have been two cars at the intersection when Susan stopped. There would have been witnesses to the supposed carjacking. It was that one not well thought out part of her story that began her own downfall.

It just goes to show you that even the best liars miss one detail, forget one thing, don’t clean up one tiny drop of blood, don’t think of every minute possibility. The human mind just cannot fathom the enormity of telling a lie and covering up the actual truth. It is that idea of truth being so much easier than lies that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 23:12-15. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

12 When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and the shouts of praise to the king, she hurried to the Lord’s Temple to see what was happening. 13 When she arrived, she saw the newly crowned king standing in his place of authority by the pillar at the Temple entrance. The commanders and trumpeters were surrounding him, and people from all over the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Singers with musical instruments were leading the people in a great celebration. When Athaliah saw all this, she tore her clothes in despair and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

14 Then Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders who were in charge of the troops, “Take her to the soldiers in front of the Temple,[b] and kill anyone who tries to rescue her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be killed in the Temple of the Lord.” 15 So they seized her and led her out to the entrance of the Horse Gate on the palace grounds, and they killed her there.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Athaliah thought she had it made. After assuming the throne, she killed all potential heirs to it – or so she thought! But even the best plans of the evil person go sour. It took six years in this case, Athaliah did much damage to the spiritual health of Judah during her reign by taking the throne and having done so by force. However, when the truth was revealed, she was overthrown immediately. No matter how well we think we have suppressed the truth or how well we created a false narrative, a lie, to cover up our real actions, the truth always comes out. Always. There is always one ray of light of truth that we always forget that leads truth seekers to start chipping away at our lie to find the real truth. The truth, however, requires no extensive planning. The truth requires no alibi. The truth requires no deception. And most of all, the truth is less taxing on us because we are wired by God (whether we acknowledge His existence or not) to know the difference between the truth and a lie. We are wired to know that the truth is superior to a lie.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that when we lie, we are simply incapable of covering up the truth in all its enormous amount of detail. We may think we have accomplished our goal and we may get away with a lie for a long time. There are some 1,000’s of murders out there right now from many many years ago that remain unsolved. And those who perpetuate the lies may well have gotten away with what they covered up during their lifetimes. However, most people don’t. Most of us are just not capable of thinking a lie all the way through. The truth has so many details that have to be covered up or counteracted that it is impossible to fully suppress the truth. God wires us to tell the truth and we know from a very young age that guilt comes along with lying. We are just wired to tell the truth. Yet, we are sinful people and thus do sinful things that require us to cover up the truth of our lives. None of us can claim to be lie-free. None of us can claim to have been perfectly truthful all the time.

So this story is a reminder to us that the truth will eventually catch up to us. We will have to account for our lies on our judgment day before the Lord. It is only through humble submission to the Lord that we are set free from our sins and our lies that will condemn us before God without the forgiveness and covering of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 23:1-11

Queen Athaliah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

It all starts in a little town in a little part of South Carolina. We must begin here. And maybe you think that a little prayer vigil in a little town in a rural part of South Carolina makes no difference at all in the public forum of our country right now. Bu it’s a start. It’s blacks and whites of Lamar coming together to pray. We will be praying for our country today. It’s a little thing, but it’s a start.

Deciding to act is often the toughest thing. In this day and age where everything is political, and at every opportunity people try to make political statements. We find a world in which there is no longer a middle ground where we can meet in the middle and have honest and deep discussions about the course of events in our country. You are either with me or you are against me is the mantra of our day. There is no ability to see another person’s point of view. For example, the liberal left in our country cannot stand Donald Trump. Anything he does is lambasted as wrong or having sinister underlying motives. Even if Trump won the Nobel Peace Prize for finding a way to end all wars for all time, I am firmly convinced the left would find something wrong with it. But conservatives are no better, often, they see the liberals as flaming socialists who are hellbent on destroying the nation and ripping it from its capitalist roots that have driven the prosperity of this country for centuries – a level of prosperity unequaled by any other nation in the history of mankind.

One area in which we are dealing with these polarized viewpoints of life is in the area of race relations. Liberals, who most often control the media of our country and most often set the public trends in our country, see conservatives who may have differing opinions from the liberal narrative as to the source of the oppression of blacks in our country as racists and brand them as such when they offering differing opinions on the issue. Conservatives, on the polar opposite, see the fight for racial equality as already having been won. Liberals glorify athletes for taking a stand with the platform that they have. Conservatives see professional athletes taking a stand on race relations as hypocrites who have used the system as it stands to become wealthy men and as a result should simply be apolitical.

This issue of athletes taking a stand on race relations hit home to me recently when a distant friend of mine from the Upstate of South Carolina recently disavowed support of the Clemson Tigers football team. Now, mind you this is not normally a big deal for a person to quit being a fan of a team. However, in this case, it is really a big deal. I consider myself a big Clemson fan with a passion for the Tigers unequaled by many. However, I paled in comparison to this friend. Everything he owned was somehow tied to the Tigers. He even had a man cave that well beyond what I could or anyone could imagine as a Clemson man cave. However, when Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s All-American quarterback who is expected to be taken #1 in the NFL draft next spring, along with others on the football team organized a protest march on campus over the summer and now that the coach has shown his support for his team expressing itself and now that the team wears stickers on their helmets supporting racial equality, he has disavowed the team that he loves. Everything Clemson has been removed from his house, his vehicles and his closets of clothing. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with Clemson anymore. It exemplifies the you are either for me or you are against me mentality of our nation right now.

I do not necessarily agree with the aims of the official organization, Black Lives Matter, but I do believe in that black lives matter. I do believe that as a conservative white male that my view of race relations is pampered in white advantage and that I must grow to see what life is life for black people in our country. I know my existence is not their existence and I have much to learn about what it is like to live as a black person. I do not agree that defunding the police is an answer but I do believe that so many police encounters ending in the death of black people is a sore on the skin of America that is an indication of far deeper social problems that must be solved. Many of these social problems lead to the situations where blacks end up disproportionately having encounters with the police. These social issues go far deeper than the cops. The encounters with the cops are the end game of social problems that we all want to ignore because they require gargantuan efforts by us all.

It just reminds me of why in our little town here in Lamar, SC that we are having a prayer vigil this morning to prayer for our nation. We as Christians must be the ones that pray for peace and unity. We must pray for ourselves as Christians to become more socially involved in the social problems of our country and not be afraid to be ridiculed to do it. We must pray for apolitical solutions to our country’s social problems. We must pray that we are active agents in our society instead of sitting on the sideline watching and commenting. We must pray that we our nation can meet in the middle of the road and shake hands and say that we have real problems to solve instead seeking to blame the other side for what’s wrong.

It is that idea of standing up for peace and unity and working together toward solutions I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 23:1-11. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 23

1 In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada the priest decided to act. He summoned his courage and made a pact with five army commanders: Azariah son of Jeroham, Ishmael son of Jehohanan, Azariah son of Obed, Maaseiah son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat son of Zicri. 2 These men traveled secretly throughout Judah and summoned the Levites and clan leaders in all the towns to come to Jerusalem. 3 They all gathered at the Temple of God, where they made a solemn pact with Joash, the young king.

Jehoiada said to them, “Here is the king’s son! The time has come for him to reign! The Lord has promised that a descendant of David will be our king. 4 This is what you must do. When you priests and Levites come on duty on the Sabbath, a third of you will serve as gatekeepers. 5 Another third will go over to the royal palace, and the final third will be at the Foundation Gate. Everyone else should stay in the courtyards of the Lord’s Temple. 6 Remember, only the priests and Levites on duty may enter the Temple of the Lord, for they are set apart as holy. The rest of the people must obey the Lord’s instructions and stay outside. 7 You Levites, form a bodyguard around the king and keep your weapons in hand. Kill anyone who tries to enter the Temple. Stay with the king wherever he goes.”

8 So the Levites and all the people of Judah did everything as Jehoiada the priest ordered. The commanders took charge of the men reporting for duty that Sabbath, as well as those who were going off duty. Jehoiada the priest did not let anyone go home after their shift ended. 9 Then Jehoiada supplied the commanders with the spears and the large and small shields that had once belonged to King David and were stored in the Temple of God. 10 He stationed all the people around the king, with their weapons ready. They formed a line from the south side of the Temple around to the north side and all around the altar.

11 Then Jehoiada and his sons brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws.[a] They anointed him and proclaimed him king, and everyone shouted, “Long live the king!”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, after 7 years of rule by Athaliah, the priest, Jehoiada finally mustered the courage to take action against Athaliah. It would have been less risky for Jehoiada to simply go along to get along. To have the courage to confront kings when they strayed from God’s ways was supposed to be the role of every priest in every generation of the kings of the Israelites. Tragically, many priests simply went along with what the kings wanted just so as they would not be exposed to ridicule, prison, removal from office, or death. Very few priests were willing to point out the real issues to the kings. Often we as Christians find ourselves in those situations throughout history of having to choose as to whether we are going to point out the real issues of the day compared to the Bible. Do we keep silent just to get along or do we speak out based on biblical principles and risk being ridiculed, marginalized and canceled out?

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we must all admit that our nation is at a crossroads and maybe that we have all blinded ourselves to the real social issues of our day. We must open our eyes and work toward solutions instead of all of us on both sides playing a blame game and nothing changing. We must all meet in the middle and respect each other’s right to have our own opinions. We must as Christians get into the game. We must represent godly solutions. We begin with prayer. And it begins today in our small little town in a rural area of South Carolina. Let us pray for peace and unity and the ability to meet in the middle and come up with godly solutions to significant social issues. Help us to be bold as Christians to get into the debate instead of being political. Help us oh Lord to stand up and stand out and come up with solutions that will bring peace, unity, and progress to our Land.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 22:10-12

Queen Athaliah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

There are times in our lives where everything you touch seems to go to crap, where you anger or hurt others and you didn’t even mean to do so, and everything in life just seems to be against you. How do you get through those times? I call it the sliver of hope, that little tiny light ahead in the darkness. There have been several deep dark valleys in my life where things just weren’t going right and it seems that I was pressed down and squeezed on all sides. I am going through a bit of a struggle in my church right now as we navigate the pandemic. I am struggling with the longer this pandemic lasts the more and more permanent damage that may be done to our church. Often in this time, I am struggling to figure out how to hold our church together and help it survive until things get back to normal. Add to that, there’s the usual stuff where people aren’t happy with you as a pastor for something you said or did or something didn’t say or didn’t do. Lately, with the combination of learning to navigate just the normal politics of local church and trying to figure out a once in a lifetime pandemic and its ravaging effects on our church, I have been pretty blue here in the last few weeks. Pile on top of that, my mother in law passed away on September 11th. Pile on top of that, the pandemic has damaged the ability for me to carry out my doctoral project for my dissertation and I am going to have to rethink how to do that. You can see that I have felt that everything was just falling down around me.

If it were not for the times in the past where I have had similar experiences, this situation may have caused me to throw up my hands and walk away. In the past, I have had those times. It was in those times that I could only put one foot in front of the other. It is only that sliver of hope that is the hope of Jesus Christ in our lives. It is the light at the end of the tunnel. It is what we cling to. It is the reason we get up in the morning and put our hands back on the plow and plow the field in front of us. We may not understand why we are even bothering to plow the field, but we keep plowing, because of the sliver of hope that our faith in Jesus Christ gives us. Sometimes, that’s all we have to get us through. When the dark tunnel seems to keep extending itself, we still have that sliver of light, that sliver of hope at the end of the tunnel.

It is that idea of trusting in the Lord’s promises even when things seem the darkest in our lives that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 22:10-12. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

10 When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son was dead, she began to destroy the rest of Judah’s royal family. 11 But Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba,[i] the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. In this way, Jehosheba, wife of Jehoiada the priest and sister of Ahaziah, hid the child so that Athaliah could not murder him. 12 Joash remained hidden in the Temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled over the land.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Athaliah’s attempt to kill all of Ahaziah’s son so that she could rule Judah was not completely successful because of one thing. God’s promise that the Messiah would be born from the descendants of David (see 2 Samuel 7). God preserved the innocent child to ensure that the line of David would not be broken. That the child was hidden in the Temple was symbolic of God’s providential care over David’s line in a time of a serious, evil threat to the Davidic line. It was also very practical to hide the baby there since Athaliah who was a pagan idol worshiper. Since she was an idol worshiper, she would have not thought to enter the Temple to try to find the last remaining member of the Azahiah’s family line.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that often when we are in the midst of struggle in our lives and it just seems that we are pressed down by events and people on every side, we must remember that if we are seeking to do God’s will and are trusting His Word and His Holy Spirit guidance on our lives, He will take care of us even in the most troubled times. Sometimes, when things are really bad in our lives, that’s all we have. That sliver of hope that represents our trust in God helps us to keep plugging away. God gives us that hope that better times are ahead and we cling to that even when it seems that it will never come. If God can ensure that the Davidic line did not end with Ahaziah, He will see us through. He will deliver us to our promised land. He will set us on high ground. What we are learning in the dry valleys, God will use to make a more humble servants who are more useful to Him. When we cling to Him in troubled times, it is a reminder to us that these calmer waters that come are provided by Him. We are His children and He uses everything to make us stronger. He uses troubled times to develop our trust. We must remember and give thanks for our peaceful times that the Lord provides us.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 22:8-10

Jehu Kills Ahab’s Family and Ahaziah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have you ever found that sometimes we Christians are the worst advertisers of the Christian faith? So many times in history, the Christian faith has been used as cover for personal ambitions of those who have abused the faith. For example, many traditions of the Catholic Church (the original church from which all others can ultimately trace their roots) have loose biblical roots if any roots at all. What the layers of tradition that have been established since the apostles established the first century original Christian church, they have often had to do with political and/or personal ambitions of the pope or his advisors over the centuries. The practice of priestly celibacy which has no direct command in the Bible started in the 11th century, a thousand years after Jesus walked the earth. The ultimate aim was one of temporary political expediency to reform the clergy who during the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire had become pretty worldly and for other property reasons as well. Over the centuries after that, it became institutionalized because of papal edicts. There are many other traditions that have developed over the two millenia of the Catholic Church that make you scratch your head as to where they found the basis for the tradition in the Bible.

Even in our times of the past 50 years or so, we have seen more than one super-popular mega-church pastor or television evangelist be exposed for abusing the trust and the influence that they have gained. Often these men started out well and were pursuing God hard and with honesty and then fame and influence blinded them to their accountability to God. The history of television evangelists is littered with preachers who have become drunk with the power and influence that they had been gifted.

Thus, it is important for us in church leadership to always to stay within the boundaries of what God has called us to do and not allow the power and influence of our positions as clergy to go to our heads. There is a sacred trust between us and God and between us and the general public that we cannot let ourselves be blinded to such that the witness of all Christians is not muddied or stained permanently.

It is that idea of staying within the boundaries of God’s command and call on our lives that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 22:8-10. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

8 While Jehu was executing judgment against the family of Ahab, he happened to meet some of Judah’s officials and Ahaziah’s relatives[h] who were traveling with Ahaziah. So Jehu killed them all. 9 Then Jehu’s men searched for Ahaziah, and they found him hiding in the city of Samaria. They brought him to Jehu, who killed him. Ahaziah was given a decent burial because the people said, “He was the grandson of Jehoshaphat—a man who sought the Lord with all his heart.” But none of the surviving members of Ahaziah’s family was capable of ruling the kingdom.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, in his zeal, Jehu went beyond the Lord’s command to destroy Ahab’s evil family. The prophet Hosea later announced punishment Jehu’s dynasty for this pointless additional rampage against the royal line of Judah. Many times in history, so-called religious people have used the guise of faith to cover over their personal agenda of ambition, search for power and/or fame, or outright cruelty or revenge and done so with out God’s consent or blessing. To use God or the Bible to condone oppression is wrong. When people attack Christianity because of the moral failures or atrocities committed by so-called men of faith or publicly avowed Christians, it mars the witness of good people of the Christian faith. We must be careful to point out to non-believers that there are those who have and do use our faith to accomplish there own goals and that these kinds of displays are not representative of true biblical Christian faith.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that that we should never think just because we are Christians and have gained influence either as pastors or as leaders of the church or as general laypersons in the faith that we have got it made and can untether ourselves from the constraints of God’s commands and call on our lives. Too often, Christians who do the most unchristian things are the ones that have quit studying God’s Word, quit fellowshipping with accountable Christian friends, and have become self-proclaimed authorities on what God says. We enter dangerous ground when we do not pray daily. We enter dangerous ground when we quit reading the Bible daily. We enter dangerous ground when we do not study God’s Word and seek to understand the theology of our faith that springs from its pages. We enter dangerous ground when we think that we know all we need to know about our faith. We enter dangerous ground we think we have got it made and do not need to grow anymore in the faith.

Let us all always remember that we are imperfect and limited human beings and that we will never “arrive” as Christians. We always have so much more to learn in becoming more and more like Christ. We always are on a journey for which there is no end until we are perfected in heaven at our death and arrival before our King. We must always be humble enough to stay tethered to God’s Word and His commands and His calling on our lives. We must remain within the boundaries that He has set for us – for our own good. So that we can remain faithful witnesses for all of the Christian faith to the non-believing world around us. The last thing we should do as Christ followers is to give the faith a bad name and in the process to turn whole groups of people (maybe for generations) against Christ – not because of Him but because of us.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 22:1-7

Ahaziah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you know something was the wrong thing to be doing, but you bulled on through anyway and then you had to deal with the fallout afterwards. Now that I have lived over 58 years, I have seen many marriages destroyed by one member of the couple getting involved with single party friends. It always seems to happen. A night out with single friends was way too much more fun than we thought. We liked it so we do it again. And again. Then, these single friends put you in situations where you might be tempted. It leads eventually to discontent with the monotony of being married (at least in your mind). Your single friends then add fuel to that fire by feeding you marital advice, which is always negative to the survival of your marriage and is given to you by people who are single – usually for a reason! You keep hanging out with single friends and doing the party scene. Eventually it will lead to ruin. Dancing with temptation, both literally and figuratively, will led to a moral failure, then, marital problems, often which cannot be recovered from, and then divorce. Seen this in life with friends’ marriages more than once in my life.

The moral of the story is to be careful who you take advice from. Usually those who give you advice that is destructive rather than constructive are lost and empty themselves and want you to join them in their lost and empty search. Satan always tells us that “this one time won’t hurt anything or anybody!” That is his favorite line. He wants us to dabble in sinful behaviors because sin is like crack. You can’t dabble in the drug, crack. You start and then ultimately want more and more. It is the same with sin. We must be careful in what advice we listen to. It the advice given and if followed is going to hurt someone or destroy a relationship, it’s good bet that it is bad advice to follow. Further, as Paul says in Romans 1:19-20,

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;

Thus, we are all imprinted by God knowing the difference between right and wrong so if something seems wrong, it probably is. Even if we do not believe in God (and this belief does not make Him not exist however), He imprinted us with this moral code. Further, for us Christians, we have the Holy Spirit there to remind us of this natural imprint and of God’s Word. That gut feeling and that general idea of God’s Word often pops into our mind when we are being given bad advice. That’s where understanding Scripture and hearing the Holy Spirit and heeding those warnings is imperative when we have tough decisions to make, particularly those that can alter the future of our lives.

It is that idea of understanding what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 22:1-7. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 22

1 The inhabitants of Jerusalem made his youngest son Ahaziah king as his successor; for the troops who came with the Arabs to the camp had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram reigned as king of Judah. 2 Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. 3 He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. 4 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done; for after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his ruin. 5 He even followed their advice, and went with Jehoram son of King Ahab of Israel to make war against King Hazael of Aram at Ramoth-gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram, 6 and he returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that he had received at Ramah, when he fought King Hazael of Aram. And Ahaziah son of King Jehoram of Judah went down to see Joram son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick.

7 But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. For when he came there he went out with Jehoram to meet Jehu son of Nimshi, whom the Lord had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab. 8 When Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he met the officials of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers, who attended Ahaziah, and he killed them. 9 He searched for Ahaziah, who was captured while hiding in Samaria and was brought to Jehu, and put to death. They buried him, for they said, “He is the grandson of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart.” And the house of Ahaziah had no one able to rule the kingdom..

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, although it was wise for the young king to seek advice, Ahaziah’s advisors were wicked and led him to ruin. He listened to advice that was politically expedient for the moment but was not wise in the long run. Since it is not mentioned in the passage that Ahaziah prayed to God or sought God’s help or even the advice of godly men, it is clear that he was not seeking God. He listened to those whose advice was advantageous to them to give him. The complicated family relationships between Ahab’s royal line in the northern kingdom with Ahaziah’s family in the southern kingdom further blurred clarity in Ahaziah’s ability to see what was right and wrong for the southern kingdom with him being only 22 years old when he became king. The alliances to which he became a party eventually placed him in a position to be assassinated, allowing his mother (who was of northern kingdom descent) to become ruler of the southern kingdom.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that whatever advice we receive, we must always compare it to Scripture. That is why it is important to study Scripture regularly. We are most often not afforded opportunities to hear advice, go home, study what Scripture has to say about that subject and then make a decision. Instead, more often than not, we have to make split second decisions about what advice to take. We have no time for study in the heat of the moment when we have those decisions that we have to make that can sometimes alter the course of our lives permanently. Therefore, it is important for us to understand the general overarching themes of the Bible through regular, routine, daily study of God’s Word. When we get into situations where we have to make a moral or life-defining moment types of decisions, we will have internalized God’s biblical themes into our hearts. We might not be able to quote a verse or a chapter as some with biblically eidetic memories might can, but we sure can know in our heart what God would want us to do in such a situation. We can know what seems biblical and what seems unbiblical when we have a decision to make. That gut feeling that something is amiss in a situation where you have to make a big decision is usually the Holy Spirit reminding you of what God’s position on that issue would be. Don’t overlook those feelings that you get in your soul as to something being the wrong decision to make. It is the Holy Spirit reminding us of what God’s Word says. Follow those warnings.

Amen and Amen.